Screw MSPAC, man: Not in our name, Microsoft staff tell firm's political donation vehicle

Fund to be put on 'hiatus' after employee grumbles

Microsoft's controversial Political Action Committee (MSPAC) appears to have hit the skids following vocal employee discontent over the group's activities.

MSPAC is a fund into which the Windows giant's employees contribute. MSPAC then flings that cash at politicos, some of which have opinions and policies that staffers may find distasteful.

Far be it from us to dip a talon into the muddy waters of US politics, but there seems to be a slight disconnect within the bowels of the company.

The company's president, Brad Smith, has sought to demonstrate the company's liberal chops with activities such as Pride marches and handwringing over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme while MSPAC has cheerfully donated cash to causes that might leave a crease or two in his polished presidential brow.

Employees' disquiet over where the Microsoft moolah could be going has been increasing in volume over the months, with the likes of Windows Server and Azure Stack HCI boffin-in-chief Carmen Crincoli sticking his head above the parapet to call out the programme.

Crincoli's point is that MSPAC gets the majority of its funding from a minority of well-heeled senior Microsoft staffers, who can feign ignorance with regards to where their money is going while paying lip service to the company's more palatable endeavours.

However, at some point even Microsoft has to climb off the fence from which the likes of Google has spectacularly fallen, and an email sent to MSPAC members by Fred Humphries Jr, Corporate VP for US Government Affairs, indicates that the time has come.

In the email, Humphries states that a "brief hiatus for political contributions" has been kicked off, expected to last until autumn (or fall, for those preferring their English to be American). Humphries acknowledges calls from employees that the scheme requires greater transparency both in terms of giving criteria and decision-making.

So no more hiding behind "ignorance", as Crincoli would put it.

Humphries warns that participants in the scheme should expect one more report detailing "contributions to a bipartisan group of lawmakers on their work with us on a range of company priorities" to the end of June.

Over the summer, new advisory councils will be created within Microsoft "to increase dialogue and transparency".

Web developer Maciej Ceglowski, who was forwarded the message from an anonymous Microsoft staffer, told The Register: "I find the vagueness of resuming donations 'in the fall' promising. My sense is the situation is fluid and what happens next depends in large part on how employees push. I think they can get the PAC shut down for good."

Microsoft has shown itself adept at negotiating the minefield of US politics over the years as CEO Satya Nadella lightly skipped over an outcry of employees with regard to the company's dealings with the US Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agency.

However, in the case of MSPAC, the company seems open to persuasion by its employees.

The Register contacted Microsoft to get the Windows flinger's thoughts on the message, and were told: "We do not comment on internal emails." ®

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